Is it legal to work more than one gig or job at the same time?
Yes. It is legal under federal law and the laws of every state to work more than one job, even if one of your jobs qualifies as full-time. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, between 7 and 8 million Americans, roughly 5% of the total workforce, work multiple jobs.
That said, depending on the state in which you live, Employment Contracts, Independent Contractor Agreements, or company policy may impose restrictions on your ability to work multiple jobs. Always be sure to read your proposed employment contract and company's Employee Handbook thoroughly for any provisions or policies about side hustles before you sign an Employment Contract or start a second job or gig.
Can I be fired from my full-time job for working a side hustle, even if I haven’t violated company policies or breached an employment contract?
Possibly. The answer depends on the state in which you live as well as the reason you are being fired.
In every state, your full-time employer may fire you if your side hustle substantially interferes with your duties at your full-time job. This includes not only obvious interferences such as working on your side hustle during your work hours for your full-time job, but also more subtle problems such as allowing your side hustle to drain your energy to the point that work for your full-time job suffers. Another consideration is whether you are working for your full-time employer’s competitors or engaging in business activity that competes with your full-time employer. Such issues may give your full-time employer good reason to fire you.
Some states still permit employers to discipline or fire employees for working more than one job even if you avoid these pitfalls. Often referred to as at-will employment states, these states permit employers to fire workers for virtually any reason or even no reason at all. Other states permit employers to fire workers for working a side hustle if doing so violates a term of their employment contract or a company policy.
Alternatively, certain states and Washington, D.C. specifically protect workers' rights to work multiple jobs. These laws are sometimes called moonlighting or off-duty conduct laws. Just last year, for example, Washington, D.C., enacted a law banning company policies that prohibit workers from working more than one job. The state of Washington enacted a similar law in 2019 with exceptions for policies designed to protect safety or preserve normal company working hours. Additionally, California prohibits employers from interfering with employees' lawful conduct that occurs during non-work hours and away from the employer's premises.
A Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney can help you determine the level of protection your state's laws provide for your ability to work multiple jobs.
Can my employer place restrictions on when or how I engage with side hustles or gigs, even for simple tasks such as responding to calls or emails?
Yes. Employers pay you for your time during the hours in which you work for them and have the right to prohibit you from engaging in work for your side hustle during those hours. This is true even for simple and brief tasks such as responding to calls or emails. Similarly, employers have the right to prevent you from using company resources or equipment, such as computers or cell phones, to engage in side hustle business. Violating these restrictions is considered “just cause” to discipline or fire a worker even in states that protect an employee’s right to work multiple jobs.
If I’m working a side hustle or additional gigs outside of my regular job, should I tell my boss?
Probably. While no law requires employees to inform their employers about a second or third job, some companies have policies that explicitly require employees to tell their employer or seek approval before engaging in outside work. If your company has such a policy, failing to abide by it could result in your employer disciplining or firing you.
Regardless of whether your company has a moonlighting policy, if you plan to work multiple jobs for any substantial period of time, you should assume that your employer will find out about it at some point. In that case, it's probably best to be proactive and let your boss find out from you rather than someone else. Be open and honest with your employer when you're ready to disclose your side hustle. Assure your employer that you are abiding by all company policies and point to your steady job performance as proof that your outside work won't affect your day job. Finally, consider pointing out any additional skills you may be developing through your side hustle.
What restrictions might an employment contract, non-disclosure agreement, or noncompete clause place on my ability to work a side hustle or additional gigs?
Depending on the state in which you live, an Employment Contract may completely prohibit you from engaging in outside work or impose other restrictions about the number of hours you can work or the type of work you can perform.
A Non-Disclosure Agreement prevents you from disclosing certain information about your work for your full-time employer. Similarly, a Noncompete Agreement prevents you from working for your employer’s competitors or starting a business that competes with your employer within a specified geographic area during a certain period of time. Generally speaking, it is considered a best practice to not engage in outside work that competes with your employer.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.